So, exciting/terrifying news: We were suddenly offered two frozen embryo profiles out of the blue, after I was told we wouldn’t be offered any until after my saline ultrasound on December 7.
Both (frozen) profiles were not particularly appropriate for us, but before I could respond, I got a call from the clinic offering me a fresh profile of a female donor with auburn hair and hazel eyes, and a tall, athletic male donor with dark brown hair, light olive skin, and blue eyes. The woman, they said, looks a lot like me, though an inch shorter and 50 pounds heavier, and they claimed she was a staff favorite. (Do they say that about everyone?)
Her profile reveals an army kid who moved a lot as a kid and who’s paying her way through junior college and college studying math and philosophy. She’s agnostic and introspective and loves books and slam poetry. Handful of tattoos and piercings. She speaks German fluently and has a mishmash of European heritage (and tans well). She apparently got a 5/5 on her Calculus AP test.
She has 5 brothers and 4 aunts, a squeaky clean health history (as any donor should), she’s kindhearted and optimistic (got in fistfights protecting other students), dreams of getting a PhD in philosophy with a focus on Pedagogy (the art/science of teaching). She sings and plays the ukelele and is a member of a sorority. Her favorite book is Little Women and her favorite food is loaded potato skins. She was her high school mascot, and she cut her baby brother’s umbilical cord. She’s nearsighted like me, a cat person, and experimented wildly with hair and make-up as a teen.
And… she has a fear of needles. But the people at the clinic said she has people to help her with that part of it!
The male donor is 6’4″ and has played every sport imaginable, including lacrosse and rugby during college. He claims Danish, Scottish, and Lebanese heritage, he studied physics in college, and he’s pursuing a post-graduate degree in Structural Engineering and Mechanics. Speaks French and Spanish and loves working with his hands. Good SAT scores, especially in math, and likes to dance and cook. Loves noodles, and his favorite color is purple. Loves animals and dreams of working in engineering for a while and then in twenty years maybe teaching high school physics and coaching lacrosse.
Has worked all kinds of jobs to get himself through life and also has a squeaky clean health history other than being red/green colorblind (which he says doesn’t affect his life). Excellent eyesight (like my husband). Plays several musical instruments and recently spent nine months teaching English in Spain and traveling solo through Europe. Fast sprinter, and a bit uptight about cleanliness (yay!). Says his best characteristic is his well-roundedness, kind of a jack-of-all-trades. In addition to everything mentioned above, he says he’s a little nerdy, can knit and sew, and he’s done improv and drama.
So. We are faced with the idea of these people we don’t know — don’t even know what they look like — providing the building blocks of our children.
Not gonna lie. It’s pretty heady stuff.
And I’m also not gonna lie: Even though a part of me doesn’t want to know what they look like (the kids should be judged only as themselves, not against these strangers), a part of me wants to know… are they kinda like us? Of course we’ll love any child we give birth to. But not knowing what they look like at all feels… odd. Trusting people I don’t know to choose people I don’t know to furnish the building blocks of what may be our only child(ren)… It’s huge, and it’s scary.
Am I a big enough person to watch them grow up as themselves and not try to measure them against myself, my husband, or two donor profiles? After all, if my parents had submitted pictures and profiles, a recipient wouldn’t have expected to get me. I do look like my grandmother, but I have a completely opposite personality.
Genetics are strange things, and whether you have kids the old fashioned way or any other way, you really never know what you’re going to get. (I wouldn’t peg two of my nephews — Mason and Luke — as brothers in a million years, for example.)
I’m also sad not to see my husband’s lovely dark hair and eyes in our kids. Auburn + dark brown probably won’t yield the same color as honey brown (me) + dark coffee black (my husband). And we’ll almost certainly have kids with blue/green/hazel eyes instead of brown like ours. But I have blue eyes in my family, and Ahmed has green eyes in his, so it wouldn’t have been impossible for us to do that on our own. But I always did imagine our kids having big warm brown eyes. And my husband and I are both thin while the donors are larger people. (If we turn this profile down, by the way, we won’t get another for a month, and there’s every probability those people would be even less like us. Out of five profiles I’ve managed to see, this was by far the best for us.)
Sigh. I guess all of this becoming so real has brought home the sadness of the fact that we haven’t been able to do this on our own, and we just can’t afford (emotionally or financially) to keep trying. We had to go for the surest thing that we could afford. It’s not a boutique place where you see catalogues of glamor shots. You get (very basic and possibly biased) descriptions, health info, and a few short essay questions, and you accept or decline.
And… these donors just aren’t us. Somehow I thought we’d end up with people more similar to us. And they are in a lot of ways. But in some ways they are strangers, different from us. Of course. Which means in some ways our kids will be different from us.
But like I said before… you never really know what you’ll get with biological kids, either. They are always entirely new beings unto themselves. So in that way it won’t be that much different.
But… yeah. Our kids will not be the joining of our long and familiar genetic histories, of our eyes and our skin and our hair, our innate quirks and body types and origins, which seems so achingly close to being possible. They will be created using the long, mostly unknown genetic histories of strangers. Seemingly good, solid people. But strangers (who aren’t even a little bit Turkish — that would have been pretty much impossible to find).
It’s a lot to take in.
(The female donor indicated she’s open to being in contact with us at any time, and the male donor when the kids turn 18. So they may not always be strangers. If we do have kids, I’d LOVE to be able to contact the donor and thank her.)
Epigenetics will no doubt have a hand to play, of course, and the way I nourish them in the womb, and the way we raise them. These are huge things, probably more huge in the end.
In any case, when you think of various geniuses throughout history, you rarely know anything about their kids. Which goes to show traits and talents are probably more of a lottery than we realized. Not to mention there are many instances through history where the genetic father is other than what is socially presented due to donation or infidelity (or rape for that matter). So you never really know how far up those “pure” genealogies actually go. And even if they are “pure,” genetic information gets scrambled within a few generations to the point where it’s impossible to sort signal from noise.
Anyway. Trying to breathe. Trying to feel more excited than terrified. And also trying to decide whether to go for one or two!
My brain basically hasn’t stopped whizzing since I got our first profiles yesterday morning…
P.S. Call me slow, but it’s finally starting to dawn on me how much you really have no idea what you’re going to get when you have kids — biological or otherwise. It’s like the best Christmas present ever.
EDIT: We’re probably going to go for two, because we want two kids anyway, and this way will be cheaper than starting over from scratch for number 2! Plus the twins will have each other as genetic relatives if that turns out to be important to them. Here’s hoping!